Chapter Four

1. Do you think Hugh Hefner’s life is happy, and what are your reasons for thinking so?

2. What is the difference between happiness hedonism, welfare hedonism, psychological hedonism, and ethical hedonism?

3. Define the theory of quantitative hedonism. What are some advantages of this view of happiness?

4. What are the six features of Jeremy Bentham’s “felicific calculus” that he thinks we can use to quantify individual happiness at any given moment? Explain each feature carefully, using examples.

5. Describe the difference between the “experiencing self” and the “remembering self.” According to psychologist Daniel Kahneman, do the two tell us the same story about happiness? Discuss the experimental evidence he offers in defense of his view.

6. Given that we remember things differently from how we experience them, which self should we trust to get a more “objective” accounting of how much pleasure or pain an episode contains, according to Kahneman? How does this relate to the distinction between moment utilities and remembered utilities? Do you agree with him? Why or why not?

7. Explain the phenomenon of adaptation. What evidence do Brickman, Coates, and Janoff-Bulman offer for thinking that we are subject to adaptation? What evidence does economist Richard Easterlin provide to support adaptation? How does this relate to the “hedonic treadmill”?

8. What advice can we glean from the phenomena of adaptation, the treadmill effect, and misremembering about how best to pursue our own happiness?

9. Does the fact that we adapt to hedonic experiences offer an objection to the hedonist view of happiness, in your opinion? Why or why not?

10. Explain the “narrative direction” objection to hedonism offered by philosopher Robert Nozick. Do you agree with him that this poses a serious problem to quantitative hedonism as a view of happiness? Why or why not?

11. Discuss the differences between how Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill each understand pleasure. If there are a variety of types of pleasures, as Mill suggests, what is it that they all share such that we collect them all together under the category “pleasure”? Whose view do you think is more accurate, and why?

12. Define the view of qualitative hedonism. How is it similar to and different from quantitative hedonism?

13. Why might we think that some pleasures are higher in quality than others? Can you offer some examples?

14. Present and explain the two different explanations that Mill offers for why we prefer higher-quality to lower-quality pleasures.

15. What is Mill’s own explanation of what makes a pleasure specifically of higher quality? Do you agree with Mill that it is better to be a “Socrates dissatisfied” than “a pig satisfied”? Why or why not?

16. In what ways does qualitative hedonism make it difficult to measure happiness or develop a science of happiness? Explain.

17. Nozick argues that we sometimes desire things for reasons other than how they feel. Describe some examples he uses in support of this claim and how they illustrate his point. Do you agree with Nozick that this undermines hedonism? Why or why not?